Before 1983, when I announced that my marriage was over, I had always been monogamous.
It was not until 1990, as I was beginning another relationship and still in the first bucking, sweaty throes of it, that I felt I needed to say something that was commensurate with the enormity of what was happening: I promised monogamy, words that came out of my mouth, expressions of an idea buried deep. I remember feeling surprised. I wondered where that had come from.
Between these two big relationships of my life, much had changed. I had come out, I had spent the better part of seven years reading canonical texts of the gay movement, and I had begun to think for myself. Also, I was writing Ceremonies. In this excerpt Dana is on the way home with her partner, Marcia. Marc is their child:
Tonight we will make love. She has a long pale yellow silk nightgown, and she will come into the bedroom wearing it after she has brushed her hair. She will be standing by the bedside table waiting for me, taking off her rings one at a time and placing them on the table. She will ask me if Marc is sleeping. Her nightgown falls all the way to the floor, showing only her white arms and her toes and when I say he is sleeping, she will smile and turn off the light, and we will find our way to the bed by the glow of the moon through the window. Then we will make love.
At the cars, we say goodbye. They [Luke and Arthur] go to theirs, and we stand by ours. I look up toward the theater. Derek [another friend] said he would join us by the lake. I am disappointed. He has been called away to something else. I feel like being called away to something else myself, a cottage on the coast, me and Marcia and Marc and a stack of books. I feel called away to friends who have maintained their freedom in the midst of this ruin. The last lights in the theater are turned off, and the entire landscape is lit now only by the cool platinum light of the moon.
Suddenly I hear their car behind me and, “Goodbye my dearest friends!” I turn around. It is Arthur, leaning out of their car window, waving, blowing kisses with both his hands. Luke waves also from the driver’s side. They drive way, Arthur still leaning from the window, throwing out his arms blowing kisses, calling, “Goodbye, my dearest friends!” They drive to the end of the parking lot and enter the driveway to the road, their lights disappearing among the trees. I hear him call, “I love you!” the last long ooooooo sound diminishing into the dark distance.
We get in, and Marcia starts the car. We drive home through the deserted country. I slide down in the seat and rest my head. The Republican convention is next month. They will celebrate family values. The first woman candidate for a national office has been under continuous attack all week for her husband’s finances. The boys are going to be tried as juveniles [for the murder of Bernie Mallett], and their harshest punishment will be confinement in a juvenile home until their twenty-first birthday. All around us are ruins. We are trapped in a moment in history which allows us almost no freedom, except the freedom to define ourselves inside an utterly oppressive culture.
Marc is five-and-a-half months old. He grows daily, discovering his body and Marcia and me, what he likes, what he doesn’t. How will he grow to express himself? How would he be if he were free? How would we express ourselves if we were free? Would Marcia and I be as we are now, in love, committed to one another for all our lives?
The road winds up and down and from side to side among the evergreen trees, the moon sometimes on this side of the road, sometimes on Marcia’s. I imagine perfect freedom. Would many women live as Marcia and I live, without a man at all, if they were able? Would many women live together happily and with purpose in communes? their children in common, the men somewhere else, there for the occasional coupling? Would some of us—or most of us—live with men in couples, sharing sex and affection and the raising of children? going to other men or women for primary affectional needs? Would the relationship with men be primarily economic and for the raising of children? Would we resort to serial monogamy? first women, then a man for children, then women again for spiritual values? And polygamy? one woman and many men? or the other way around, one man and many women, whose primary sexual and affectional needs would be met in each other?
If Marc were to grow up in perfect freedom, in a culture without fear of sex, a culture that celebrated all the diverse sexual and emotional and intellectual possibilities of men and women, wouldn’t things be more fluid? less rigid? And wouldn’t it be certain in such a community where anarchy ruled that there would be no rigidly defined groups who were constrained to limit their affections and their desire to members of only one other group? Wouldn’t Marc be free? Would Marc have to define himself straight or gay?
What of Marc’s feelings? Don’t his feelings flow from object to object, person to person, occasion to occasion without break, a rich continuum of emotional life, flowing over and around and under whatever comes into his life? Don’t we feel desire with one—or some or many—forever or for a little while, at the same time or at different times? And doesn’t our desire take different forms and different intensities according to the moment and the object?
Dana sees what freedom in the future is going to be like.
Oxford University Press has announced a new book, to be published this month, January 2012, by Eric Anderson, The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating. I have my order in, and when it comes, I’ll review it here. Anderson’s book has already been reviewed by Vicki Larson, Huffington Post.
These quoted pages are the last two pages from the end of Part Two, “Dana,” Ceremonies, by Dwight Cathcart, ebook published by Adriana Books, 2010